In his lengthy WWD profile of Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, writer Jacob Bernstein takes a sound-bite stroll through memory lane with the former Reagan and Bush-41 speechwriter. She receives glowing praise from fellow journalists like Dan Rather (she’s a “fiercely independent reporter”), William Greider of The Nation (“I think she’s terrific”), and the late Tim Russert (“The only predictable thing about her column is its unpredictability”). But the most interesting bit comes when Noonan talks about herself, and how, well, she hates talking about herself. In the story’s lede, Bernstein reprints a nervous e-mail from Noonan, in which she tries to get him to drop the profile:
Please don’t be mad at me. I don’t mean to show disrespect for your time, or for you. You are a doll. I have to admit to second thoughts, none of which are connected to you. What I have been thinking each day is this: I really want the column to speak for me. Because it’s better at speaking for me than I am. The thing about writing is that, as you of course know, it requires — and allows — reflection and consideration and figuring out what you really think, what you really want to say. And each week I try to get to that, sometimes getting there and sometimes not. But when I talk I find myself more inclined to pop off, or go for a joke, or attempt to entertain, or fill silence lest silence be misunderstood….In the weeks after we spoke I sort of winced at things I’d said. (That would be just about everything.)
I feel I was babbly, nervous, and in general…wanting. And I felt, Oh, don’t be a noisy person, be quiet and write. (I was hoping you found me sufficiently boring not to go forward.) This is not in any way your fault as I’m sure you know or have a sense of, but mine. Could you allow this to just pass, and not do the piece? I would be so grateful.
We’re pretty sure Noonan would have preferred not to have this e-mail reprinted in its entirety. But out of the whole piece about her brilliant career, this is the part that made us like her the most.